Personal finance education in schools
by Gareth Binns, Operations Director of pfeg
(the Personal Finance Education Group)
All children and young people in the UK will have access to a planned and coherent programme of personal finance education, so that they can leave school with the skills and confidence to manage their money well.
(HM Treasury 2006)
The current Secretary of State for Children, Families and Schools aspired to this when he was a minister at the Treasury, and since he moved departments the profile of financial capability in schools has never been higher. In the new secondary curriculum, implemented in September 2008, financial capability is a strong strand within the personal, health and social education agenda. The Secretary of State’s long-term vision fits well with pfeg’s aim of everyone from 4 to 19 years receiving high-quality personal financial education, enabling them to develop financial acumen and to become informed and independent consumers.
pfeg (the Personal Finance Education Group) is the UK’s leading finance education organisation helping schools to plan and teach personal finance education relevant to pupils’ lives and needs. While few of us would argue against the notion that young people need to be able to manage their money and plan for the future, finding time in a crowded curriculum can be a challenge for schools. The approach pfeg takes is to work closely with teachers, recognising that each school is unique and will have an individual solution. The aim is long-term sustainability, hence the need to raise the confidence of teachers in an area in which they are not always comfortable. We provide a range of support that is free to all schools:
- www.pfeg.org hosts a wealth of information with resources, case studies, lesson plans, video clips and guidance, all of which can be downloaded;
- the pfeg Quality Mark – a kite marking system that ensures that all resources designed to teach personal finance education are accurate, balanced, linked into the curriculum and not used to promote financial products;
- newsletters with up-to-date information about resources and curriculum changes.
In addition, pfeg’s current innovative projects portfolio includes our Learning Money Matters programme. This is an ambitious and far reaching five-year project funded through the FSA and forming the schools’ strand of the national financial capability strategy. English secondary schools are being supported through pfeg’s five regional offices, with their teams of full-time education consultants allowing pfeg to provide prompt, flexible support and develop links with local networks, structures and initiatives. By 2011, we aim to have reached two thirds of state, special and independent schools, supported over 8,000 teachers and improved the financial capability of over 1.8 million young people. All support is provided free to schools and is customised to suit individual circumstances. At the time of writing, we have had requests for support from 2,043 secondary schools.
Here is a flavour of the feedback from students:
I found personal finance education lessons extremely helpful and I will be able to manage my finances much better in the future.
(Student from St Francis Xavier School, Richmond, North Yorkshire)
I can’t believe money gets taken out of your wage – what you earn isn’t what you take home!
(Student from Dearne High School, Barnsley)
Learning Money Matters works because it enables schools to teach personal finance in the ways that will most effectively meet their pupils’ needs. The following case studies demonstrate the varying ways that schools with very different intakes are utilising the support provided:
Learning to Earn
Cramlington Community School, Northumberland
In June 2006, 430 Year 9 students from Cramlington Community School, a large mixed comprehensive in Northumberland, took part in a ‘Learn to Earn’ day during the school’s multicultural week. Students took part in a number of activities focussing on wants versus needs, cultural diversity, spending and priorities, the consequences of having too much or too little money and understanding value for money and shopping around. With help from a pfeg consultant, lesson plans and activities were designed to fit into the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority’s PSHE framework and the Guidance for Financial Capability (available in PDF format on the DCSF website). Resources were sourced from local high street commercial outlets and Oxfam, with other material devised specifically to deliver the identified learning outcomes of the day. Based on the success of this collapsed timetable day, the school is planning a similar day on financial education in the year ahead.
Meeting special needs
Sheringham Woodfields School, Norfolk
Sheringham Woodfields School in Norfolk is a sixth form college for students with moderate learning difficulties.
The sixth form manager was concerned that the school was not providing the students with information they would need around how they could be as financially independent as possible. She wanted the school’s programme to be relevant and engaging and requested advice, resources and training from pfeg for both herself and the other staff members. A pfeg consultant assisted the school in designing two days of activities to encourage financial capability. Throughout the three days’ support, the consultant was able to build on the close personal relationships the students enjoyed with staff to enable them to improve their financial skills and participate in the activities without anxiety.
One activity involved constructing a board game specifically for Sheringham Woodfield students which included photographs of local shops. This game enabled the students to reinforce their skills in saving, spending and handling real money and to recognise their local area. The game takes students around a board where they collect an allowance at the bank then make purchases or save money during each round. The students are encouraged to help each other whenever possible and for everyone to be actively involved.
Mathematics for everyday problems
The Dearne High School, Barnsley
The Dearne High School is a semi-rural, mixed 11-16 comprehensive school in Barnsley, with students from wards with high levels of financial deprivation. A full day was devoted to financial matters starting with a simulated ‘Who wants to be a millionaire?’ game. This gave the form tutors an idea of the level of financial understanding their students had and generated a lot of discussion and much heated debate. A second session focused on how people earn money, with quite a few not realising that what you earn is not necessarily the same as what you have available to spend. A budgeting exercise demonstrated how few students had any understanding of the cost of everyday living. In a game called ‘Trading Trainers’, based on earning money in a developing country, students role-played family members making the training shoes, market traders and money lenders. All of the activities promoted discussion and allowed the students to see the real-life applications of what they learn in mathematics lessons. Seeing the need for mathematics in everyday situations made the day very appealing to some students. Often in trouble in other lessons, they became very involved in these discussions.
The innovative ways that schools are finding to bring personal finance alive for children and young people are a real inspiration and a trend that we hope will continue as more and more schools sign up for the Learning Money Matters initiative and What Money Means. The year ahead is looking even more exciting than the last as personal finance education begins to get the attention it deserves – and the opportunities increase for children and young people to acquire the skills they need for a life free of money worries.
If you would like to receive further information about pfeg and the services it can offer visit www.pfeg.org or contact us via email or by phone on 020 7330 9470.
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